What is range anxiety and how to prevent it

It you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV) but are concerned about running out of battery, you’re not alone. Here, we explore what’s known as ‘range anxiety’ and ‘charge anxiety’ and what you can do about them.

What is range anxiety?

Range anxiety describes the fear of your electric car not having enough charge to reach its destination. It’s a very real concern for many people and it’s considered a major hurdle, preventing drivers from making the switch from a petrol or diesel car to an EV.

Is range anxiety justified?

In the early days of EVs, there was often a discrepancy between the number of miles the car could cover in theory compared to what it could actually do in real life. As the range was often limited to start with, that difference could be significant, especially if you were driving longer distances. EV technology has of course, vastly improved since the first mass-marketed electric cars were launched. Back then, in around 2011, EVs could cover an average of just 74 miles on a full charge according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT). Now, the average mileage on a single charge is over 250 miles with some cars exceeding this. To put that into perspective, it means that you could potentially drive some EVs from London to Cardiff on a single charge (149 miles). But while range anxiety was understandable for those early EV adopters who wanted to drive long distances, our data shows that the average car journey is just 8.4 miles.

What is charge anxiety?

Charge anxiety is a newer term that has started to replace range anxiety and it describes the fear of not being able to charge your EV. For example, not being able to find a charging station or chargers being damaged and unusable.

Is charge anxiety justified?

For the average EV driver with a charging point at home, charge anxiety shouldn’t be an excessive concern. Particularly if your journeys are predictable and planned, for instance, if you drive to the same office every day or only use the car for local school runs and errands.
However, analysis by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), described current EV charging facilities as a ‘postcode lottery’ with some parts of the country severely lacking in publicly available charging services. In fact, latest figures reveal there are more than 600,000 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on UK roads, but just 35,000 public charging points. Nevertheless, the urgent need for more readily available charging stations is being addressed and there are two government initiatives to deal with the shortage:

  • The rapid charging fund – a total of £950 million is being spent to improve the network of charging stations on motorways and A roads.
  • The local EV infrastructure scheme (LEVI) – a £20 million pilot scheme that aims to improve facilities in selected counties, including on-street charging and the development of charging hubs.

How to overcome range and charge anxiety

Anxiety over range and charging facilities doesn’t have to be a barrier that stops you from investing in an EV. To put your mind at rest, here’s what you can do instead:

Plan your journey

If you’re going on a road trip, it’s always a good idea to plan your route so that it includes charging stops along the way. There are several apps that show you where they are, and some include live data that even tells you if charge points are currently in use. Apps include Zap-Map, ABRP (A Better Route Planner), and Watts Up.

Prepare before you set off

As well as planning your trip, check your car is fully charged before you set off. It’s also worth ensuring your phone is charged (or take a charger with you) so that you can access charging point apps.

Keep up with car maintenance

As a rule, EVs don’t need much maintenance but it’s important to make sure your tyres are properly inflated. EVs are generally heavier than other cars and flatter tyres will increase resistance which means your car will need to use more power to move (draining the battery more quickly).

Find out more about owning an EV from our EV hub

If you’re still weighing up the pros and cons and want a little more insight into EV ownership, it’s worth taking a look at our EV hub. We cover essentials including a summary of the most popular models in the UK, cost to buy, EV insurance and battery degradation, so that you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you.


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